HBHL funding supports ground-breaking research at the Douglas

Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives, recently announced the results of their Discovery Funds Competition 2, which aims to attribute substantial (over $1M) funding allocations to strategic projects within each of its four themes.

We are proud to announce that the four funded projects are led or co-led by Douglas scientists, in support of ground-breaking research on mental health at the Douglas. In particular, these projects serve to advance some of the strategic priorities of the Douglas, including promoting the use of data science to advance evidence-based treatment approaches, development of single-cell brain research capabilities, and transforming research and care at the Douglas through digital innovations. 

Congratulations to all the researchers involved!

Theme 1 – Computational analysis for multi-modal, multi-scale neuroscience

Clinical diagnostic criteria and treatment options for brain disorders are typically designed for the average patient, which doesn't take variation between individuals into account. This project aims to develop and release novel analytic strategies to predict disease evolution and treatment response at the individual level using a combination of multimodal imaging, genetic and behavioural data. The team will work together with other HBHL research themes and Western’s BrainsCAN to adapt their strategies using datasets from each theme. The resulting algorithms, maps and resource datasets will be hosted and shared via NeuroHub.

Project total (over 3 years): $1,250,000

Research Team: Celia Greenwood (App), Bratislav Misic (App), Mallar Chakravarty (Co-App), Yasser Iturria-Medina (Co-App), Jean-Baptiste Poline (Co-App), Christine Tardif (Co-App), Alan Evans (Co-App) 

Collaborators: Louis Collins, Masha Dadar, Alain Dagher, Ali Khan (Western University), Martin Lepage, Ravi Menon (Western University), Jean-Francois Poulin , Madeleine Sharp, Jo-Anne Stratton, Yashar Zeighami

Theme 2 – Application of single-cell technologies to brain disease biospecimens (Single Cell Neurobiology Hub)

Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) has been used in cell classification, mapping neuronal circuits, deciphering molecular interactions across immune cells, determining the molecular and cellular signatures of disease and more. Currently, the major bottlenecks for these technologies to be adopted clinically are equipment availability and expertise. To meet this challenge, the project team will create the Single-Cell Neurobiology Hub (SCNH) to provide access to infrastructure, technical and analytical expertise, as well as support for open data-sharing between users. This project will connect technology access points across the Neuro, the McGill Genome Centre and the Douglas Research Centre to advance single-cell protocols, develop SCNH capacity through four sub-projects and create an open interface for knowledge and dataset sharing.

Project total (over 3 years): $1,013,500

Research Team: Jean-Francois Poulin (App), Jo-Anne Stratton (App), Corina Nagy (App), Ioannis Ragoussis (App), Claudia Kleinman (App), Jean-Baptiste Poline (App), Naguib Mechawar (Co-App), Jason Karamchandani (Co-App)

Collaborators: Kevin Petrecca, Sali Farhan, Tom Durcan, Jack Antel, Stefano Stifani, Ted Fon, Philippe Séguéla, Sylvain Williams, Mark Brandon, Mallar Chakravarty, Gustavo Turecki, Patricia Silveria, Keith Murai, J-François Trempe, Myriam Srour

Theme 3 – Cognitive Neuroscience Knowledge Exchange for Clinical Translation (CONNECT)

The CONNECT project aims to enhance collaboration, promote interdisciplinary knowledge exchange and orient cognitive neuroscience research towards clinical applications. CONNECT will bring together cognitive neuroscience researchers, clinicians, trainees, patients and advocates to take on this challenge. This project will draw on existing models of design thinking in research to support knowledge exchange, brainstorming and new interdisciplinary teams. CONNECT will develop, test and iterate a novel applied research approach for innovative and inclusive cognitive neuroscience with potential for clinical and policy applications. CONNECT will also offer seed funding for the most promising ideas from interdisciplinary teams.

Project Total (over 3 years): $1,499,900

Research Team: Madeleine Sharp (App), Anna Weinberg (App), Maiya Geddes (App), Lesley Fellows (App), Boris Bernhardt (Co-App), Xioqian Chai (Co-App), Julien Doyon (Co-App), Laurence Kirmayer (Co-App), Denise Klein (Co-App), Nancy Mayo (Co-App), Jean-Baptiste Poline (Co-App), Natasha Rajah  (Co-App), Mathieu Roy (Co-App), Signy Sheldon (Co-App), Nathan Spreng (Co-App)

Collaborators: Melanie Dirks, Reza Farivar, Nancy Low, Stuart Lubarsky, Marie-Christine Noël, Ross Otto, Soham Rej, Amir Schmuel

Theme 4 – Shifting toward digital innovations: Transforming research and care at the Douglas Institute

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to improve access to safe and reliable mental health care. However, the implementation of innovative technologies to provide effective mental health care to users across the province requires significant changes across the Quebec health-care system. The project team seeks to leverage cutting-edge digital services, technologies and infrastructure as a means of improving mental health care. This approach includes storing, recording and optimizing clinical data throughout the patient trajectory, optimizing treatment based on these data and improving access to these tools. To support this work, the team will also develop neuroinformatics infrastructure to ensure safe transfer and storage of these clinical-level data, as well as artificial intelligence tools that will enable clinical and research applications. All advances will be publicly accessible to maximize the impact of the research.

Project Total (over 3 years): $2,139,570

Research Team: Martin Lepage (App), Mallar Chakravarty (App), Masha Dadar (Co-App), Simon Ducharme (Co-App), Lesley Fellows (Co-App), Manuela Ferrari (Co-App), Shalini Lal (Co-App), Nancy Mayo (Co-App), Lena Palaniyappan (Co-App), Myra Piat (Co-App), Jean-Baptiste Poline (Co-App), Jai Shah (Co-App), Yashar Zeighami (Co-App)

Collaborators: David Buckeridge, Guillaume Dumas, Celia Greenwood, Srividya Iyer, Eric Latimer, Outi Linnaranta, Maxime Montembeault, Corina Nagy, Tuong Vi Nguyen, Geneviève Sauvé (McGill), Gustavo Turecki